PETER KER August 11, 2012
Inpex's drilling rig in Western Australia. Photo: Bloomberg
BIG gas company Inpex says it is working to maximise safety for the $34 billion Ichthys LNG project, despite conceding there may be unexploded bombs lying along the route of its gas pipeline.
Inpex made the concession in correspondence with federal regulators as it sought permission to remove six objects from the pipe route that are suspected to be unexploded ordnance.
The Ichthys project will have an 889-kilometre sub-sea pipeline built between gasfields and a processing plant in Darwin, under a plan to be producing gas and petroleum liquids by 2016.
The pipe route passes through an area of ocean that has been used by the Australian navy for war games. After detailed searches, Inpex has identified six potential bombs.
It told federal regulators the objects had become encrusted and discoloured on the seabed, meaning it was impossible to say whether they were harmless blanks or live bombs.
Inpex has sought permission to deal with the six objects, which could have them detonated by another explosive device.
''The do-nothing case would result in a risk of accidental detonation during either the laying or operational phase of the gas export pipeline,'' the company wrote. ''If the potential unexploded ordnances are not removed from the seabed, personnel could be at risk of injury, and equipment and infrastructure could be at risk of major damage. These risks are deemed unacceptable and would prevent development of the Ichthys project in its present configuration.''
Inpex said while the likelihood was ''low'', it was possible that more unexploded bombs remained along the pipe route.
Asked by BusinessDay if the discoveries had eroded confidence in the project's safety, Inpex said it had spent more than three years trying to maximise safety.
''The removal of these potential UXOs is not on the critical path as construction of the pipeline is only scheduled to commence in mid-2014,'' an Inpex spokeswoman said.